The multitude of stakeholders in Guyana have not played their part in putting fire to the feet of those who are responsible for putting in place a national development strategy, including a Local Content policy, to ensure that ordinary Guyanese benefit from the petroleum sector.
This is the view of the former Minister of Natural Resources Robert Persaud. He was speaking at the Duke Lodge in Georgetown Wednesday evening where there was a robust discussion on what a Local Content Policy should look like.
They were discussing the third draft of the policy which is basically designed to facilitate the active participation of Guyanese labour and suppliers in the petroleum sector.
Persaud began by citing his definition of Local Content.
“I see Local Content as bridging the expectation gap between what is taking place in the industry and what it means to the ordinary man or woman, no matter where he or she lives.”
Persaud said that any Local Content Policy has to be linked with other elements in managing the country.
“It has to be mainstreamed in a national development strategy, not an environmental strategy, which is the Green State Strategy, but a national development strategy that looks at where the country is going to be 2030, in 2040 – a long term one,” Persaud stated.
He added that the strategy should be one that is bought into by all stakeholders and “not a strategy that is owned by one government or one party.”
He emphasized that his vision of a local content policy is what that has a link to the overall management and governance of the country.
“It is not about contracts alone (and) it is not a matter of jobs for Guyanese.
“It is also a matter of how ordinary people can play a part and benefit directly and indirectly from the oil and gas sector, how it is that we can stimulate existing sectors, but also create new sectors through innovation, through research,” he stated.
Persaud said that Guyana can pull from local content policies of other countries in order to fashion the ideal Local Content Policy.
“I don’t want us to look at it as a narrow concept.
“It is much more than getting part of the action.
“It is about stimulating development, it’s about long-term prosperity, and a very important point in our context it is about social and political stability,” he stated.
Persaud urged local businesses not to hang on to the new policy that has been drafted as the end-all.
Persaud ended his presentation with a note that Wednesday’s discussion may have very well been a just a nice conversation, given that with the government in an interim state, it cannot advance new legislation.
But as the country heads into a new elections cycle, he said the matter of Local Content should be part of the campaign message and citizens must hold their politicians to their word.